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November 17 2004

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MINISTER RESTATES CASE FOR MORE WIND POWER
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11:00 - 17 November 2004
Energy minister Mike O'Brien yesterday restated the Government's backing for wind power, and said the Westcountry should play its part by hosting its share of windfarms.

Mr O'Brien insisted that only wind turbines were sufficiently advanced among renewable technologies to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a target date of 2010. That is the date that has been set for the UK to produce ten per cent of its electricity from renewable sources under the Kyoto Protocol.

His comments at a conference in Plymouth came amid intense controversy over the siting of windfarms in the countryside.

As well as seven windfarms in Cornwall, the first in Devon is under construction at Bradworthy. Applications have also been submitted for a number of others, provoking campaigners' accusations that sensitive landscapes are being "desecrated" for the sake of an inefficient technology that can do little to arrest global warming.

Mr O'Brien insisted that wind turbines were up to the job. He said he wanted a debate conducted around "the facts" and not "misconceptions".

Addressing Renewable Futures: The South West Green Energy Conference, the minister said wind power in the South West will make a "quite a substantial contribution" to hitting Britain's target for reducing greenhouse gases.

Mr O'Brien insisted that "there is undoubtedly broad public support for wind energy". He claimed the Government's own research showed a rise in people supporting onshore wind power once they had experienced living within four kilometres of a turbines site. He said they favoured wind power in greater numbers once their fears had been overcome.

Mr O'Brien's views contrasted sharply with those of the Conservative Party opposition, whose leader Michael Howard told the WMN on Monday: "We would not put all our eggs in one basket as the Government has done".

The minister's comments were also challenged by Campbell Dunford, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Foundation, who said: "Our view is that the Government is making a strategic error in the short term and that gap will not be filled by wind turbines."

Mr Dunford pointed to the experiences of Germany and Denmark, world leaders in the development of onshore wind power and two countries, where there now serious doubts about their effectiveness, cost and ability to curb the carbon emissions which cause global warming.

He urged a greater emphasis on other renewables which he believed were being neglected.

Mr O'Brien predicted that other forms of renewables would come to the fore in the next ten to 20 years. Speaking to the WMN, he said: "The issue is not just that we are going to develop wind turbines and reduce the amount of emissions, it's that the damage done to the economy, environment, tourism and agriculture will be worse if we do not."

He maintained that the planning process was fair and allowed a "balance" to be struck between the opinions of local communities and the national interest. He insisted that wind turbines would only be approved in the appropriate locations and after local communities had been properly consulted.

He rebutted claims - reported in the WMN - that the Government was biased towards wind power because its Renewables Advisory Board was heavily weighted with members who work for private companies with financial interests in wind technology.

Mr O'Brien described the claims as "ridiculous", saying it made the best sense to consult the experts in the industry. He denied it was "ridiculous" that the Government was promoting renewables at the same time that it had increased the level of C02 emissions that British industry could emit by 7.5 per cent over the next three years. Nor did he believe this negated the efforts of the renewables industry. He said this would amount to saying the economy "could not expand" at a time of growth.

nyoung@ westernmorningnews.co.uk
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WAVE HUB LEADS WAY IN SEA POWER
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11:00 - 17 November 2004
Energy Minister Mike O'Brien yesterday singled out the South West peninsula for having huge potential for wave energy generation.

Mr O'Brien voiced his enthusiasm for the Wave Hub project off the north coast of Cornwall which would harness the power of the sea to produce electricity. The hub would act as a socket into which wave power turbines will connect, allowing the electricity they generate to be transferred back to shore through cabling along the seabed.

He said it could have a significant role in the development of marine technologies in the region and throughout the UK. Speaking at the Renewables Futures Conference in Plymouth, Mr O'Brien said: "The South West is blessed with having one of the best marine resources in the world. Since last year, the region has had its own unique marine initiative - the Wave Hub project. If the business case is made, we will support the project.

"Earlier this year, the Government announced a new Marine Renewables Deployment Fund, worth up to 50 million, to help the wave and tidal industry in the UK. We have already spent 15 million on research and development over the past five years and with the additional 50 million we have a real opportunity to kick-start this new industry."

Matthew Spencer, chief executive of the South West Renewable Energy Agency (Regen), said: "If we pull the funding of this project we believe we can help the UK win the international race to commercialise wave energy."
 
 
VILLAGERS DENIED TURBINES EXPERT
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11:00 - 17 November 2004
Angry villagers have been told they will not be allowed to have a technical expert representing them at an upcoming meeting about controversial plans to build three 100-metre high wind turbines. Residents from Goveton, in the South Hams, say the situation is "unsatisfactory".

They had hoped an expert from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) could attend the meeting on November 25 to give a short presentation.

Representatives from Npower will be discussing their plans for the giant turbines - earmarked for land near Goveton - at the meeting but residents say they will now not have an expert to quiz officials from the power group.

They fear they will not have an opportunity to quiz officials about the proposals, which they claim will be a blight on the landscape.

Resident Martin Ranwell said: "We seem to have reached a totally unsatisfactory situation.

"I'm very concerned that people will Npower and South Hams District Council.

"It seems to me that local democracy is under threat.

"But we will still have a technical expert at the meeting."

Dave Mitchell, from South Hams Opposed to Unsightly Turbines (SHOUT) said that residents were "very unhappy" that they would not be represented by an expert at the meeting.

Ernest Fleck, chairman of Buckland-tout-Saints Parish council, confirmed the meeting would solely be for parishioners.

He said it was just for residents of Buckland-tout-Saints, East Allington and Woodleigh, and added that no outside experts would be allowed to speak.

He said that because of the strength of feeling among residents, it may be necessary to have another more widescale meeting.

He said: "We're concerned about numbers attending the meeting.

"We want to really make it a parishioners meeting so we can get a feeling from them.

"If we have formal presentations from one side arguing the principles and justifications then we would need the counter argument and it could become a very technical meeting.

"If it becomes necessary, we may have to consider a bigger more widespread meeting.

"But we always set out for this meeting to be so we could get the local views and impact on parishioners."

Tomorrow, Western Morning News readers in the South Hams area will be given the opportunity to sign a special petition in the newspaper against wind turbines near Goveton.

Our petition, which will be launched together with a full colour protest poster, gives residents the chance to make their objections known about the proposals.

The initial results of the petition will be presented at the meeting at East Allington at 7pm on November 25.
 
 
YOU'LL HAVE WIND POWER
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11:00 - 17 November 2004
The Energy Minister Mike O'Brien yesterday signalled the Government's determination to push ahead with on-shore wind power in the Westcountry despite growing protests in rural communities.

He told a conference in Plymouth that "in the case of the South West, wind will make a significant contribution" to hitting Government targets of producing renewable energy.

His comments came a year after his predecessor as minister, Stephen Timms, provoked a backlash in the countryside by telling windfarm companies to "go out and build".

Since then there has been a spate of applications for massive wind turbines in Devon and Cornwall. The policy has come under attack from campaigners who claim large areas of the rural Westcountry could be despoiled for no worthwhile reductions in the carbon emissions that produce global warming. And it has come under fire from the Tory leader, Michael Howard, who told the WMN he believed new planning rules "reduced the say of local people in deciding whether these giant windfarms should be allowed".

But Mr O'Brien insisted: "To say we should not be developing wind is to say we are effectively conceding that we will not hit our 2010 targets (on producing ten per cent of electricity from renewables)".